Travel Lite announces the 2017 Travel Lite Air and pushes their lightweight hard side truck camper line to the furthest possible extreme.
It’s becoming a habit for Dustin Johns, President of Travel Lite. He calls Truck Camper Magazine HQ about every six months with a new truck camper concept he could not be more excited about.
In 2014 it was the Illusion series. In 2015, it was the Travel Lite 625 Super Lite, followed by the Rayzr cabover-less brand. Then, just a few weeks ago, the phone rang again with yet another bold vision, something Dustin called, the “Air”.
“It’s the lightest hard side truck camper we’ve ever made. In fact, I think it’s the lightest weight hard side truck camper any production truck camper manufacturer makes, period,” exclaimed Dustin, practically leaping through the phone with enthusiasm.
“And that’s not all,” he continued. “The Air is going to be the same price anywhere in the United States, coast-to-coast. You’ll be able to buy an Air in California for the same price as Indiana or Florida, freight included.”
This last statement, “freight included” is indeed a novel idea. As of now, the closer a dealership is to a factory, the lower the shipping cost will be for their truck camper inventory. This is why a Travel Lite in Indiana is less expensive than a Travel Lite in California, Florida, or Maine.
Anyone who has read a truck camper bill of sale will tell you that shipping a truck camper is very expensive. To include that cost in the unit equally coast-to-coast will likely read as madness to the rest of the truck camper industry, but Dustin thinks he’s on to something big.
And did I mention that the Air does not have any available options? It’s one price, one weight, that’s it.
To get to the bottom of Air the concept and Air the camper, we talked to Dustin Johns, President of Travel Lite Campers.
2017 Travel Lite Air Specifications
The 2017 Travel Lite Air is a hard side, non-slide camper made for long or short bed trucks. The interior floor length of the 2017 Travel Lite Air is 5’9″ and the interior height is 6’3”. The 2017 Travel Lite Air has a 10 gallon fresh tank and no grey or black tanks. It can accommodate one battery and has one twenty pound propane tank. Travel Lite is reporting the base weight of the Travel Lite Air to be 1,120 pounds. The base MSRP for the 2017 Travel Lite Air is $12,268.
TCM: Is Travel Lite Air replacing anything in the Travel Lite truck camper line, or is it an all-new floor plan?
Dustin: The Air is an entirely new floor plan with its own vibe.
TCM: What is the thinking behind the concept of the Air?
Dustin: I had many goals with the design of the Air. First, I wanted to build the lightest weight hard-side camper on the market, hands down, and to be 100-percent transparent about that weight.
Second, I wanted the Air to fit a six-foot short bed truck with the tailgate closed. Many people want to fit a camper inside the truck bed, close the tailgate, and use the factory backup camera. You can do that with the Air with a six-foot short bed truck or an eight-foot long bed truck. It will fit on the super short bed half-ton trucks, but you just won’t have the ability to close the tailgate.
Third, I wanted to build the Air with a generous set of standard features, but no available options. We carefully studied what most customers would want in a truck camper like the Air, and made those features standard. Those standard features are built into the weight and price.
Finally, I wanted to make the Travel Lite Air the same price across the United States. Customers can buy the Air for $12,268, including delivery, anywhere in the United States. I don’t believe any RV manufacturer has taken this pricing approach.
Above: The inside of the Travel Lite Air
TCM: Selling a truck camper for the same price across the country is definitely innovative in the truck camper marketplace. Why are you taking this approach to pricing for the Air?
Dustin: It makes for a more honest buying experience for the consumer, and it helps our dealers. In the age of the internet, people price shop online, and it’s easy to compare units. For better or worse, customers are willing to drive a little farther to save money. With this model, the consumer is going to buy from their local dealer. If a consumer needs service done, it’s always best to go to your original dealer.
The Power Sports industry has already embraced this pricing strategy. It makes for a better relationship between the dealer and the consumer.
TCM: Earlier you said that you wanted to be transparent about the the weight of the Air. What did you mean?
Dustin: There’s nothing hidden in the weight or price of the Air. Every Air costs $12,268. Every Air weighs 1,120 pounds. There’s no difference in shipping costs. There are no available options to change the camper’s weight. It’s completely transparent for the customers.
We are really pushing the boundaries of build costs, shipping costs, and camper weight. It took a lot of work to sell it for $12,268 to the end consumer. Even with all of the features we included, I think the Air is about 500 pounds lighter than the next lightest competitor.
Above: The Air is a compact truck camper for short and long bed trucks
TCM: Are you considering the one price concept for all of Travel Lite products in the future?
Dustin: It could work across the board, but it gets tricky with the larger models. For example, if a dealer buys three slide-out truck campers, those units are significantly more expensive to ship than the Air. Because of its size, I was able to make single pricing work for the Air.
We have our own delivery company with custom-designed trailers. Our trailers can haul seven Rayzrs or up to five truck campers. We can now cost efficiently ship units from our factory in Indiana to the West Coast and the South. If a dealer pays less for freight, the consumers pay less for campers. Low cost shipping is a huge win for our customers.
TCM: Why are you so enthusiastic about the opportunity the short bed half ton market represents?
Dustin: That’s where the volume is and where the majority of potential customers are. The number of people who want larger truck campers is a small fraction of the people who have a half-ton short bed trucks and want a light weight and affordable unit. The top three selling vehicles this past year were all half-ton trucks.
Above: The Air next to a Travel Lite Illusion truck camper, note the 5’9″ interior floor length and east-west cabover
TCM: Why call this camper the Air instead of giving it a numerical name like the Travel Lite 625?
Dustin: It’s the lightest weight hard side truck camper on the marker and it needed a name to symbolize that. The name “Air” was a no brainer.
I also wanted the Air diversified from the rest of the Travel Lite product line. It’s quite different from the Travel Lite 625, 700, and 770 Super Lites. It has different cabinetry, materials, netting, and standard features. The Air will even have its own brochure.
Above: The face-to-face dinette is 6’7″, which allows for an adult-size sleeping area when changed to a bed
TCM: The floor plan is unique in Travel Lite’s truck camper line. What inspired you to put the dinette across the front wall?
Dustin: From a design point, there’s more width (6-feet 7-inches) than floor length at (5-feet 9-inches). By having a face-to-face dinette along the front wall, I am able to get a longer bed, which is more comfortable for an adult. If two guys are going camping, they can each have an independent adult-sized bed. With a face-to-face dinette, we were able to accomplish that.
Above: Removing the table reveals an open floor plan
I also wanted a wide entrance and a feeling of openness when you first walk into the Air. The Air floor plan is very open in person.
TCM: Low cost and light weight are important, but how are you ensuring that these goals don’t compromise the construction integrity of the Air?
Dustin: It actually takes more expensive materials to make the Air lightweight. The Air is framed in Banak wood, has modern aluminum cabinet doors, features Granicote countertops, and a molded front nose cap. We have been using Banak wood for our Super Lite truck campers for years and the weight savings is remarkable. A Banak wood camper frame is 40-percent lighter than an aluminum camper frame.
Above: Storage netting is utilized to save weight in the Air
It took six months to dial in the design and select the materials for the Air. We just revisited everything. When you have a wide open floor, there’s less cabinetry saving more weight. We are also using birch-type flooring material for durability and lightweight. All of this added up to save enough weight that we could include a standard refrigerator, furnace, converter, and more.
TCM: Talk to us about the quality control that all Travel Lite products go through, including the Air.
Dustin: Our production manager, Keith Troyer, has 10-percent ownership in Travel Lite. He has a lot of experience running prestigious production lines here in Elkhart County. Over the past two years, Keith has changed the culture of production and quality control at Travel Lite.
Keith redesigned the way we build campers. Mid-line there is now an inspection of the electrical and plumbing systems. At the end of the line there is a PDI inspection and a final testing. The plumbing and electrical are actually tested three times before the camper leaves the factory. Before Keith’s changes these systems were only checked once. Keith has taken our production and quality control to next level.
TCM: Is the Air a one-off model, or are you planning more Travel Lite Air models in the future?
Dustin: For now, there is only one Air planned. If our dealers and consumers ask us enough, we’ll certainly consider more Air models.
Above: The Travel Lite Air has a one-piece molded front nose cap
TCM: How did you decide on the dimensions of the Air?
Dustin: I went to every major truck brand and measured the half-ton short bed lengths, rail heights, and wheel wheel space by hand. Then I made sure the camper wouldn’t be too difficult for people to load. Those became the minimum measurements for the Air.
If you study industry norms, there’s no science behind the camper lengths, widths, and heights. I designed the Air around actual truck measurements, and made it no longer, wider, or taller than it needed to be.
One benefit from the width of the Air is that you don’t need mirror extensions. I also added a pass-through window and lower entry door window so you can see straight through the unit with your rear view mirror. Of course that only works if your tailgate is removed.
When I first started here at Travel Lite in 2002, there were just 8’ beds and 6’6” beds. Now they are 5’8” and 6’4” and 6’8”. The truck bed sizes are so random. I made sure the Air fits as many truck beds as possible.
Above: The east-west bed and dinette bed are both 6-feet 3-inches wide
The interior height of unit is 6-feet 3-inches. The interior lights are off-set so you can enjoy the full 6-feet 3-inches. The interior width 79-inches, or 6-feet 7-inches across. That’s why the bed lengths are actually comfortable for adults.
TCM: Were there any adjustments after the first prototype was completed?
Dustin: We took so long to make sure the Air design was on target that the construction of the first unit was exactly right. It actually came out better than I expected. I had thought the interior would look and feel tighter than it does in real life. I am 6-feet tall and I can move around freely inside the Air. I knew we had something special when I first walked into the Air. It has style in a feng shui way, and it’s user friendly.
TCM: Is there anything that distinguishes the Air in terms of production techniques?
Dustin: The Air has the same time-tested and proven wood frame and hung wall construction techniques as our other truck campers and travel trailers. It’s also easy to repair. If you back up into something, wood frame and hung wall construction makes for a quick fix. Without aluminum framing or lamination, nothing is going to permanently bend, delaminate, or otherwise cause a large repair bill.
Above: 3-cubic foot refrigerator and wall-mounted air conditioner
TCM: Did you use any new appliances or components in the design of the Air?
Dustin: We have new cabinet doors that are modern, strong, and rigid. They will definitely stand the test of time. We sacrificed a good amount of money on the new cabinet doors, but they are worth it.
Other Air features include a 3-cubic foot refrigerator, molded countertops, Fantastic Fan, 12,000 BTU Atwood furnace, AM/FM radio, indoor and outdoor speakers, USB and 12-volt outlet, and a removable table. It’s all high quality materials and components. There’s nothing chintzy about the Air.
Above: Stainless steel sink with high-rise faucet and two-burner stove
TCM: What type of windows come with the Travel Lite Air?
Dustin: The Air has single pane sliding windows. All of them open, including the pass-through and rear window. You have a window that opens on all four sides of the camper.
TCM: Does the Air have holding tanks?
Dustin: The Air has a 10-gallon fresh tank. We chose a 10-gallon fresh tank because the kitchen sink is the only item in the Air that uses water. People use the water for washing dishes, brushing teeth, and washing hands. Ten-gallons is enough water for those applications for several days. There is no grey tank or black tank because there is no toilet or shower. They grey water drains into an exterior container of your choosing.
Above: The fresh water fill is under the cabover step inside the camper
TCM: We saw that you have to fill the fresh water from inside the camper. Why did you make this design choice?
Dustin: With the face-to-face front dinette, there was no way to run the water fill line through cabinets to the fresh tank. To fill the fresh tank on the Air, the customer can either bring a hose into the unit, or fill the tank with water jugs. Ten one-gallon water jugs and the tank is full.
If you stay at a RV park, you can hook the Air up to city water. You have a direct water line to the sink so you’ll never run out of water.
Above: The vented battery compartment is the cabinet under the AM/FM Radio, CD, and MP3 player with a USB input
TCM: Does the Air have a battery and a propane tank?
Dustin: Yes, there is room for a standard Group 24 deep cycle RV battery. It fits in a vented battery box on the interior of the unit.
There is a 20-pound vertical propane tank in an exterior compartment. Twenty-pound vertical propane tanks can be exchanged or filled with the least amount of headache and hassle. Any Home Depot, Lowes, or 7-11 across the United States can exchange a 20-pound propane tank.
TCM: To aid in proper winterization, does the Air have a battery disconnect, low water drain, etc.?
Dustin: A winterizing kit is standard on the Air making it easy to fill the water lines with RV anti-freeze. There is a gravity drain on the Air to let the water out when the camper is unloaded. Battery disconnects are standard on all Travel Lite truck campers, including the Air. A high quality Shurflo water pump is also standard on the Air.
TCM: Are you still promoting inexpensive step stools for your non-overhang truck campers like the Air?
Dustin: With truck campers that fit inside the truck bed, aluminum scissor steps won’t work. An affordable step stool is the best and most affordable solution. They’re also very easy to set up, and you can purchase one that matches the height of your truck.
TCM: What does the Travel Lite Air weigh?
Dustin: It is 1,120 pounds with everything included. We were able to achieve a phenomenal weight, especially with the options we are including.
The Air has a fiberglass cap, awesome countertops, refrigerator, removable table that you can take outside, aluminum cabinetry doors with tempered glass, and black diamond plate. The only item that’s not included is a battery. The battery is not built into the price or weight of the Air.
TCM: How did you weigh the Air?
Dustin: We took the Air to two different scales in Elkhart County and the weight came in at 1,120 both times.
TCM: What is the center of gravity of the Travel Lite Air?
Dustin: It’s forward of the rear axle for every short bed half-ton truck. We don’t mark the center of gravity because it’s a non-issue for a camper like the Air.
TCM: As you know, Truck Camper Magazine believes marking center of gravity is important and encourages Travel Lite to mark center of gravity on its products. What is the MSRP for the Travel Lite Air?
Dustin: The MSRP of the 2017 Travel Lite Air is $12,268. Everything is included, even shipping, at every Travel Lite dealer in the United States and Canada.
TCM: What is the warranty of Travel Lite Air truck campers?
Dustin: The Air comes with a full two-year warranty from Travel Lite. That’s a big deal.
TCM: When will the Travel Lite Air be available at Travel Lite dealers?
Dustin: Air units are starting to ship to Travel Lite dealerships now. They should be at all Travel Lite dealers in the next month or so.
TCM: Is there anything else going on at Travel Lite our readers should know about?
Dustin: We are working on some updates to our Rayzr line to debut later this year. We’re also preparing some very exciting updates to the Illusion series. Look for those updates in Truck Camper Magazine soon.